The cultural traffic between Montreal and Toronto, the seats of the Governor-General-recognized two solitudes, is showing signs of picking up in speed and volume. Jean-Marc Vallée's C.R.A.Z.Y. is the talk of the town's intelligentsia. Next month, the Factory Theatre presents the belated English-language premiere of Tideline by hotshot Québécois playwright Wajdi Mouawad. And over the next week or so, some of the edgiest women in Montreal's performance-art and cabaret scenes will add sizzle to the already hot-hot-hot Hysteria: A Festival of Women, at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre.
Now in its third year, this eclectic, feminism-informed mix of programs and performance styles by nearly 100 women from across North America has become as central to Buddies' season as its older theatre festival, Rhubarb!
This year, festival director Moynan King has highlighted that hotbed of creativity we call Montreal by inviting 20 of its women to perform in various programs. Some (but not all) come from the Montreal performance series Edgy Women, the brainchild of Miriam Ginestier, co-artistic director of Montreal's dance and interdisciplinary-arts centre Studio 303.
While all women are, of course, edgy, official selections from Edgy Women include Taliesin McEneny and Anna Leventhal in the Psycho[logic]program tomorrow and Deborah Dunn in Sunday's Stripped: Women Coming Undone.
The highlight of the Montreal performance sampling will be a special edition of the city's popular lesbian cabaret night, le Boudoir, on Nov. 4. Although the event, which began in 1994, is as recognizable among Montreal's lesbians as, say, the Dyke March in Toronto, some explanation of its distinctive nature is in order.
"It's a lesbian cabaret inspired by the turn-of-the-century aesthetics," says Nathalie Claude, a dancer, choreographer, writer, musician and regular contributor and host to both le Boudoir and Edgy Women. "It connects things about burlesque, acrobatics, music and pantomime from the period." Think Moulin Rouge, Toulouse-Lautrec and the cancan, but with a distinctly lesbian sensibility.
"From a lesbian point of view, a lot of things were done in burlesque of the time," Claude explains the fascination of the period and its aesthetics to au courant lesbians. "Because the performances were staged to do crazy things and speak the unspeakable, women could dress up as men . . . and there were lots of references to gay and lesbian lives in the burlesque and vaudeville world of the period."
Claude -- whose one-act bilingual plays have anchored and become a highlight of le Boudoir for the past five years -- will perform her fourth solo creation Lapine-moi (featuring original music and soundscape by Isabelle Lussier) in the Sensorimotor Stage program on Nov. 5.
"It's a very weird solo," Claude says. "It's about the feeling of losing your mind -- a bit like a nightmare but a funny one." The New York Times praised Claude's "inspired abandon" when she performed there last December, while the Village Voice described it as "an amusing exorcism of sadness."
International success -- Claude also performs in Europe -- is just one offshoot of both Edgy Women and le Boudoir. Both programs are essentially about creating and connecting local communities of women. Montreal lesbians, for example, have used le Boudoir as an excuse to dress up in fancy costumes, giving them a share in the performance aspect of the event.
"We created a community of artists, people and audiences through all these projects," Claude says. And while Edgy Women has grown into a weeklong festival, le Boudoir thrives on its one-night-only vibe. "It's the night of the year. If you missed it, you missed it." Ditto Toronto.
Hysteria: A Festival of Women continues at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre until Nov. 5. Day pass $15. Festival pass $50. 12 Alexander Street, 416-975-8555 or www.